Business Unity SA (Busa) has strongly appealed to the government to implement the proposed youth wage subsidy, which it believes has the potential to create 400 000 jobs, mostly in small and medium enterprises.
In a meeting with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe on Friday, Busa voiced its support for the policy, which aims to lower the costs of employing first-time workers via a subsidy for employers.
Busa’s appeal adds to the growing clamour around the policy, which was proposed by Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan last year and was due to be introduced in April. But opposition from the Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) blocked its progress. The Democratic Alliance, which last month marched on Cosatu headquarters over its opposition to the subsidy, is turning the deadlock into an electioneering issue and raising public support for it.
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Bheki Sibiya, CEO of the Chamber of Mines, a prominent member of Busa, said he had told Mr Motlanthe that the business lobby was convinced the youth subsidy would create 400 000 new jobs for young people in the industry and particularly in small and medium-sized companies.
"I appealed to the deputy president, government and the ANC to persuade their Cosatu colleagues to act patriotically by supporting the youth wage subsidy," Mr Sibiya said yesterday. Busa also suggested "the system be strictly monitored to prevent abuse".
Cosatu’s objection is that the subsidy would be used to displace older workers and merely to increase profits. Recent statements by President Jacob Zuma and Mr Gordhan indicate that the government is intent on implementing a variation of the subsidy scheme "which addresses the genuine concerns of labour".
In reply to a parliamentary question a week ago, Mr Zuma said this could include limiting the number of subsidised workers an employer could take on, or requiring consent from sectoral bargaining chambers.
A second concern raised by Busa in Friday’s meeting was for a regulatory impact assessment to be done on proposed changes to labour laws, in particular new provisions restricting the operations of labour brokers.
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